Modern Slavery

Slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Instead, it changed its forms and continues to harm people in every country in the world. Whether they are women forced into prostitution ,men forced to work in agriculture or construction, children in sweatshops or girls forced to marry older men, their lives are controlled by their exploiters, they no longer have a free choice and they have to do as they’re told. They are in slavery.

There are an estimated 40.3 million people in modern slavery around the world:

Today slavery is less about people literally owning other people – although that still exists – but more about being exploited and completely controlled by someone else, without being able to leave. Someone is in slavery if they are:

Forms of modern slavery

How does slavery happen?

Modern slavery can affect people of any age, gender or race. However, most commonly, slavery affects people and communities who are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. It can be someone living in poverty and having no real prospects for a decent job, who will accept a good sounding offer of a job abroad that turns out something else that what was promised. It can be someone from a community heavily discriminated against, such as Dalits in India, who will have to borrow money for a medical treatment from a wealthy farmer, and will fall into debt bondage for decades with no hope of help from corrupted authorities. Or it might be a young girl who happens to live in a society where early marriage is completely acceptable, who will have no choice over marrying an older man. Or it might be someone who happens to be born to a mother coming from a ‘slave’ cast, literally owned by their masters from the day they are born. Slavery is also more likely to occur where the rule of law is weaker and corruption is rife. It can also happen to groups of people who are not protected by the law, for example migrants whose visa status is irregular are easy to blackmail with deportation.

Many people think that slavery happens only overseas, in developing countries. In fact, no country is free from modern slavery, even Britain. The Government estimates that there are tens of thousands people in modern slavery in the UK.

Modern slavery in numbers